Kenyan Governors: We Can’t Control Coronavirus with Open Border

An Ugandan security officer asks for social distancing as truck drivers wait in a line to go through the Uganda's immigration office in Malaba, a city bordering with Kenya, in Uganda, on April 29, 2020. - All truck drivers ferrying goods crossing the border from Kenya must take a test …
BRIAN ONGORO/AFP via Getty Images

Kenya’s regional governors are calling on national authorities to close the country’s borders as illegal migration from surrounding countries has caused an increase in imported coronavirus cases, Kenyan newspaper the Nation reported on Thursday.

According to Kenya’s Council of Governors (CoG), the illegal entry into Kenya of people from Tanzania, Uganda, and Somalia has led to a rise in coronavirus infections in border regions. Last week, across nine Kenyan counties that border other countries, 205 people were quarantined and 249 people were tested for coronavirus after crossing into the country illegally, according to the newspaper.

At a regional leadership meeting in Machakos County on Wednesday, the CoG’s chairman urged Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the illegal migration, the Nation reported.

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, from western Kenya’s Kakamega, requested the ministry design a “protocol for dealing with neighboring countries, that will only allow limited access, if any, in order to contain the disease [Chinese coronavirus].”

“It is the responsibility of the national government because there are protocols on how to deal with foreign countries. We hope we can scale up the issue with the National Coordinating Committee,” the governor added.

Oparanya also pointed out that the cost of quarantining people in border counties is met by the county and the persons quarantined, suggesting the national government should contribute to the effort. In response, the national government announced Wednesday that it would begin paying for targeted coronavirus testing and quarantine services at “public facilities” starting this week, according to the report.

The governor of Kajiado County, which shares 80 percent of its border with Tanzania, said that recent illegal border crossings into his county had “caused fear” for a subsequent spread of coronavirus, the Nation reports.

“We want a complete shutdown [of the border with Tanzania] and for the national government to address the issue. The same goes for [Kenya’s borders with] Somalia and Uganda,” Governor Joseph ole Lenku demanded.

In the central county of Isiolo, Governor Mohammed Kuti said local officials were worried that coronavirus lockdown restrictions had caused unforeseen health problems, such as a decrease in child vaccination, according to the report.

Governor Kuti said women in Isiolo had stopped going to hospitals to give birth amid Kenya’s coronavirus lockdown causing a decrease in the number of babies being immunized. Additionally, higher incidents of child malnutrition have been recorded since the closure of schools cut off kids from their school lunches.

“We cannot afford to go back from the miles made in maternal care due to the [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic,” Kuti warned.

On Monday, the Nation reported that Kenyan Muslims have been sneaking over the country’s border into Somalia to pray in mosques still open there during Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. As part of Kenya’s current coronavirus lockdown, mosques are closed. Kenyan government officials called for authorities to closely monitor the country’s border with Somalia for these illicit crossings, which have also been blamed for an increase in imported coronavirus cases.

On April 6, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a partial lockdown of the country to curb the spread of coronavirus, expanding on a nighttime curfew that started on March 27.

At press time on Friday, Kenya had officially recorded 621 infections and 29 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.

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